Patriotic rally at Fort Brown
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Texans had a particular interest in the world conflict because of their troubled border with Mexico, which was in revolution. Germany attempted to precipitate a conflict between the United States and Mexico in order to keep the Americans out of the war in Europe. In March 1917, Texans were outraged to learn of the Zimmerman telegram, an intercepted message between Germany and Mexico in which the Germans promised to help Mexico recover its lost territories in Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico in exchange for Mexico's allegiance in the war. The plot had the opposite effect of what the Germans had hoped for. On April 2, 1917, Woodrow Wilson asked Congress to declare war on Germany, and on April 6 the United States officially entered the war.
Fort Brown, just outside of Brownsville in Cameron County, was in the thick of the tensions that led to U.S. involvement in World War I. The fort dated back to the U.S.-Mexican war in 1846. After the Brownsville raid of 1906, an incident in which black troops at the fort clashed with white citizens (see Portraits of Texas Governors for more), the fort had been closed and taken over by the Department of the Interior for research into cactus plants. In 1914, border tensions led to the reactivation of Fort Brown. From World War I until 1941, Fort Brown was home to the Twelfth Cavalry. The 124th Cavalry trained at the fort during World War II. The fort was deactivated in 1945 and today is the site of the University of Texas-Pan American at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College.
There was little opposition to the war in Texas. About 198,000 Texas men served in the armed forces, along with 450 women who served as nurses. On the home front, women participated in war bond drives, volunteered for the Salvation Army and the Red Cross, and worked to replace men who had been called into service. Homemakers participated by planting victory gardens and by conserving the wheat, meat, pork, fat, and sugar that was needed to feed the troops.
Patriotic rally at Fort Brown. Harry Lund Collection, Prints and Photographs Collection, Texas State Library and Archives Commission. #1964/263-102.
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